Living history – colonial times
History in a textbook can be so boring that the whole subject is forever labeled as far from interesting. One of my favorite things is when I get the chance to make it come alive for my children. Today was one of those days. Our American Girl book club group met here today and we studied colonial America. We’ve been hard at work all week getting ready and I was nervous last night that the day wouldn’t meet up to our collective expectations!
Colonial Williamsburg, where the Felicity books take place, is a place so near to the heart of our family. We’ve visited numerous times and my grandparents live there. My husband is a history major and is totally passionate about history. I am the teacher of our children so I am immersed in all of it all over again and that has to be one of the best things ever!
We started with a book discussion, talked about colonial times, what their life looked like and how it differed from ours. We talked about the Patriots and Loyalists and how much was at stake during that time. The girls joined me at the table where I’d put out several things similar to what they would have seen in the late 1700’s.
Glass blown by hand tinged green from the algae in the water, large keys made of metal and brass, candle holders to light dark nights with no electricity, extremely heavy iron that had to heat in the fire before using them and a washboard for all the hand washing of laundry. A copy of the Declaration of Independence and a colonial map, just for fun!
In discussing clothing and bathing, we learned that the reason they wore those white caps on their heads wasn’t just the style but that it kept their hair clean – bathing was such an ordeal. The mob cap protected them from sun as well as kept their heads cleaner. My (amazing) mother offered to sew white mob caps for all the girls and also to get ready little small mob caps for their dolls. It was too fun!
The girls glued lace to the edge of their doll caps then let it dry and later threaded elastic through to complete the project – they were so proud – they turned out darling! Even the boys insisted on dressing up, their job was to tend the fire outside.
I walked the girls outside, talked about how much work just making a cake would be, getting milk, making butter, grinding flour and collecting eggs. We don’t get milk yet from our goats but we talked about how they would have had animals that all served a purpose and were key to their survival. Our horse is a cute pet but I said that horses would have had to work hard then, plowing, pulling carriages or being ridden. We checked for eggs but there were none, I’d taken the last two from under the hens this morning to bake our apple cake for snack time!
We made a button spinner, buzz saw type game with a string and button, played Blindman’s Bluff in the backyard and colored colonial paper dolls. We talked about the things they used to play with – corn husks, shells, flowers, leaves and tried to imagine those being our ‘fun things’.
Getting to do this with these girls was the highlight of the month for me and for sure one of the highlights of our year! Next time we meet I am hosting a formal tea, teaching how to curtsy and dance the minuet. We might learn some manners too!